America's Cup Returning to San Diego
New Format Aiming to Add Excitement
After being away for 16 years, the America's Cup is sailing back into San Diego Bay. The regatta, the second stop in what has been retooled as the America's Cup World Series, will be staged here from November 12-20. San Diego hosted America's Cups in 1988, 1992 and 1995. San Diego Yacht club, led by Dennis Conner, won the race in Freemantle, Australia in 1987. Conner and his crew retained titles in 1988 and 1992, but fell to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in 1995. That same year, America3, the first all-women's team competed in the event.
This San Diego run won't be just for the participants. The start and finish lines will be just off the shoreline, and spectators will be highly encouraged to turn out to watch AC-45 swing-sailed catamarans, the latest high tech boats. The America Cup Fan Experience, Event Village and Team Headquarters are also attractions for fans. "With the breakneck speed of the boats and the athleticism needed on board, the new look America's Cup will be attracting a whole new audience,'' said America's Cup Event CEO Tom Huston. "One that is younger and loves action sports and extreme thrills.'' Scott Peters, chairman of the Board of Port Commissions, said more than 20,000 racing fans have turned out for previous events. "The America's Cup World Series promises to be even more popular, '' he added. Chuck Nichols, chairman of Sailing Events Association San Diego, is also pumped up about the ACWS. "Our city's long and storied history with the Cup makes San Diego Bay an ideal location to help transform America's Cup racing to a new era,'' Nichols said. "With its natural stadium environment, we are able to host multiple venues along San Diego Bay for fans to view this new form of high-adrenaline racing.'' The ACWS will culminate with a winner-take-all fleet race on November 20. Teams will compete for the chance to win the San Diego Match Racing Championship for points towards the overall ACWS title. Another event is the AC 500 speed trial, where teams coax their boats to cover a 500-meter straight-line course as quickly as possible . Think of it as a sprint on water. Oracle Racing, which has boats skippered by James Spithill and Russell Coutts, are the American sides in the Cup. The teams are owned by Bay Area software mogul Larry Ellison. Other squads are Artemis Racing of Sweden, Aleph Yacht Club of France, China Team, Emirates Team New Zealand, Energy Team, also from France, Green Comm Racing (Spain) and Team Korea. "We spent 16 months in San Diego preparing for the last America's Cup, so we know the harbor is a perfect stadium for a high-speed, high energy America's Cup,'' Spithill said. "I can promise you this: people in San Diego will have a new appreciation for America's Cup sailing.'' The second leg of the ACWS is currently going on in Plymouth Sound in the United Kingdom, and the sailing has hardly been easy. Fierce winds of up to 35 miles per hour contributed to three capsizes, and Oracle's Spithill Racing Crew dodged several potential spills into the drink. Aleph, Team Korea and Green Comm Racing were, in chronological order, sent tumbling into Plymouth on September 11. This was the second day of the leg's competition. Despite the dangerous conditions, reminiscent of San Francisco, as Dean Barker of Emirates New Zealand pointed out, no one was hurt, though boats did incur minor damage. The Spithill gang was able to sail away with the lead. "It's good,'' said Coutts. "It's a test of sailing skill, and that's what it's all about, isn't it?" Racing gets back underway Wednesday with qualifiers for the Plymouth AC Match Race Championship. No doubt all involved can't wait to get to San Diego, where the water and wind will almost assuredly be non-confrontational. For more information American's Cup World Series San Diego, visit americascup.com, then go to the "Join Us in San Diego" link.